Tag Archives: reading 2010

Book #25 – The Devil’s Teeth

Book #25 – The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey

A while back I saw Susan Casey on Charlie Rose talking about her recent book on giant waves. An interesting interview and a topic I know nothing about. I took a look for The Wave at PaperbackSwap and saw that Casey had also written a book about great white sharks and the Farallon Islands. The Farallons are a group of islands 30 miles west of San Fransisco. They are a big breeding ground for seals and therefore a stop over in great white shark migration. They’re also a weird hub of biodiversity and a creepy, harsh place to live on or work from. Again this is a place I’d never heard of and was intrigued by.

The book is roughly in three parts. In the first, Casey describes how she came to be interested in white sharks and her first visit to the Farallons, basically as journalist. She covers the research that has been being done at the islands, but doesn’t go into great detail. For the rest of the book, I supposed. The second part involves her second trip back during the off-season shark-wise. She also includes some of the history of the Farallons. They’ve been a hub for fur hunters, egg hunters (sea bird eggs were a commodity in gold-rush San Fransisco before enough chickens made it west), and the US military. The place is inhospitable and has a long history of maritime tragedy.

Which makes Casey’s decisions in the third portion of the book somewhat befuddling. She writes on page 169:

"The chance to be with people who possessed these elegant survival skills, I realized, was a big part of what had drawn me here. This was an oasis of competence in a bumbling world, clean and straight where things were usually compromised and bent."

Unfortunately, she proves that she’s pretty much a part of that bumbling world. While she has very little sailing experience and a doesn’t seem particularly interested in gaining any expertise, she pushes to be the sea-bound member of the Shark Project’s experimental floating research platform. Things, of course, go awry and Casey doesn’t seem to feel much responsibility for the results. She chalks it all up to being "shark crazy;" that anyone who has seen a white shark would understand her want to see more. I don’t buy it. For me this attitude soured what might have been a really interesting book.

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Five more books in a month and a half? I might be able to make my 30-book goal yet.

Other things read and links to my reading notes:
The Popinjay’s Daughter, by Anne Cross
Memory Boxes by Pam L. Wallace
Household Spirits, by C. S. E. Cooney

Bits & Book #24

Black Gate’s Goth Chick had an interesting article on jinni: Pursuing the Jinn. In my opinion, jinni are one of those things that aren’t used often enough or well enough in speculative fiction. One of the few urban fantasy series I’ve found palatable is Rachael Caine’s Weather Warden books, mainly due to the djinn. I also came across a teaser/trailer/short film a while back that was pretty intriguing.

This is the type of thing that I’d love to see more of in the land of electronic books: Dracula Soundtrack app. I’m not saying that I’d necessarily want all my books to have a soundtrack, but it’s an area that can set electronic books apart from their paper versions. No one seems to be taking advantage of the interesting things that an electronic text could do.

Book #24 – The Reel Stuff edited by Brian Thomsen & Martin H. Greenberg

The Reel Stuff is an anthology of short stories and novellas that have been adapted for the silver screen. Honestly, I have seen only about half of the resulting movies. The standout pieces of this anthology for me were Donald A. Wollheim’s “Mimic” and Clive Barker’s “The Forbidden,” the latter being the basis for Candyman. Wollheim’s story is tight and succinct and packs a good wallop for its word count. Barker’s “The Forbidden” has the best “deep” idea of these stories, playing with the notion of stories not only creating monsters, but also keeping them at bay. Other observations:

  • I wonder if the model number problems in Philip K. Dick’s “Second Variety” influenced the Battlestar Galactica re-imagining.
  • The number of characters that write-off strange occurrences is staggering.
  • That William Gibson thought that microfiche would be the way old information would be archived is slightly befuddling. Born in 1974, I have never once used microfische.
  • I also wonder if the narrator character from Lovecraft’s “Herbert West–Reanimator” influenced in inclusion of a mad scientist’s assistant in Universal’s 1931 Frankenstein. There is no such assistant in Frankenstein the novel.
  • I could probably write a treaties how female characters, or in the case of Barry Longyear’s “Enemy Mine” lack of female characters, are treated in this anthology that has no woman writers. I might revisit this it when I understand better how well-regarded women writers treat their female characters (and their male characters, for that matter).

Read Lately:

I missed this fall’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon. I’d like to take a day one of these weekends, call it a reading day, and whittle down my to-be-read pile, but that’s probably not going to happen.

Read lately:

I managed my way through three stories from Joyce Carol Oates’ Haunted. Just wasn’t getting into the swing of these stories. The main characters and the story-telling style were a bit tedious to me. It could be my mood. I’m impatient lately.

Read "Banshee" by Ray Bradbury. I have a thick Bradbury anthology and I wish they would have sorted them by genre.

Read the opening story of Murder on the Ropes, a boxing mystery anthology. "Sunlight Shining on Water" by Doug Allyn was light on the murder, light on mystery actually, but heavy on crime elements. By far the most straight-forward story I’ve read lately. This isn’t a bad thing…

The December issue of Realms of Fantasy is available as a free download. Read "Queen of the Kanguellas" by Scott Dalrymple. Will probably read the rest of the issue soon.

Also read "Clockwork Fairies" by Cat Rambo. The blogger at 365 Days of Women Writers (should that be Woman writers?) didn’t care for it. I was okay with okay with stodgy Claude, a man of his time. He’s a good backdrop for the fantastic elements of the story.

Book #23 & Other Detritus

I really did intend to post earlier in the week. I was faced with a big block of yellow highlighted text that needed rewriting; a chunk of technobabble that I needed to reinterpret after Eric explained what should be said. Since the deadline was this evening I didn’t do much writing on it until today. If I learned one thing in college, it was how to properly procrastinate. Of course, it didn’t really seem right to write on Monday if I wasn’t doing work. And Tuesday was mostly lost to an earache.

Played ultimate Monday night at Intel and today at Freescale. Other than the ear problem, I’ve felt pretty good. I even played today without any knee strap…now that I purchased a second one.

Reading lately:

Book #23: Beware! by Richard Laymon
Ah, the sex and violence of a Laymon book. If I have a guilty pleasure, Richard Laymon books are it. Though, even decadence sometimes grows tiring. The one thing that Laymon does very well is make every chapter significant. There is no chapter, however short, that doesn’t have *action*. The situation constantly changes for the characters and that’s impressive. Something I can certainly learn from.

In absolute contrast to the nekkid women of the Laymon book, I’ve added 365 Days of Women Writers  to my aggregator. I am, of course, behind. I’ve read "Birdsong," "The Last Thing We Need," and "Bloodlines." I’m more interested in speculative fiction, so only "Bloodlines" has met that criteria. "The Last Thing We Need" was interesting due a male narrator. All three are first person. All do seem particularly female to me.

Currently reading Haunted by Joyce Carol Oates.

30 Days of Writing – Day 16 & Book #22

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing? 😉

Both Divine Fire and Pas de Chat depict romantic relationships. DF has a Victorian feel to how male-female relationships are handled. Therefore, everything is pretty chaste. (Come to think of it, the same goes for Lucinda at the Window except in that case the book *is* set in 1901. Not Victorian, but close.)

PdC is contemporarily set and is a little more sexy. There’s a bedroom scene; it’s brief. I will admit, as I have before, that I’m not very comfortable writing the sexy bits. I’d rather write some stomach-churning gross bits. I’ve mulled a little about why this might be. The best answer I’ve decided on is that while a reader may or may not believe that writing reflects the writer, I am more comfortable with the utter unbelievability of my being a serial killer than the possibility that I might be a perv in bed.

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Book #22 – The Prestige by Christopher Priest

My book-every-ten-days plan want right off the rails in August. I just could find the time to read everyday. That trend has continued into September.

Over the weekend, I finally managed to finish The Prestige by Christopher Priest. This is the book that the Hugh Jackman/Christian Bale movie was based on. I knew that The Illusionist was based on a novella, but I hadn’t realized that the other "magician movie" was based on a text as well. (I currently have some interest in magician novels…)

What strikes me about this novel is that, while originally published in 1995, it is much more like 19th century novels: Dracula, Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights. There is narrator that is external to the majority of the story. The story is formed by several different journals. Which means, there is a great deal of "telling" in this novel rather than showing. And that’s okay. There are quiet a few extraneous details, especially within Angier’s journal, that have more to do with the character’s life than with the story. And that’s okay too. It works.

I do wish that I hadn’t seen the movie before reading this because I knew what to expect twist-wise. I could appreciate some of the literary misdirection that the author engaged in to tell the story, without cheating. I also think that the movie tells a better story by limiting the scope to only the two magicians, though I would like to give the movie a rewatch.

Book #21; Where Am I?

Fiction! All over the place!

  • Wrote a scene for Luck for Hire. Eric and I both agreed that it was a snoozer. Rewrote it. Hopefully, the new version is better: Other Interested Parties.
  • Pas de Chat, chapter 13 is available for consumption as well. I need to set up a few more chapters today or tomorrow.
  • I have a short bit up at 52|250 as well: "Bouncy with Anticipation". Just realized that my first piece for 52|250 was entitled "Bounce!"
  • Okay, not fiction, but about fiction (of the movie type): I posted a rare Obscure Media Monday entry on two horror movies that utilize the sea.

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Book #21 – Cat in the Mirror by Mary Stolz

This is another case where my memory of something does not match my recent experience of it.

I first read this book in 7th grade. I had switched from a Lutheran school to public school that year. My 7th grade English and Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Hayenga, may be one of the most influential teachers I’ve had. She presented interesting books instead of the dry classics. The other book I remember reading was The White Mountains by John Christopher. Science fiction! In an English class! It gave the genre fiction I loved some legitimacy. Why couldn’t all English classes be this way? (I’m of the opinion that they can be.

As I a kid, I had an interest in ancient Egypt, so this book was right up my alley. Erin, the main character, is fantastically transported from her mundane life to Egypt where…well…things aren’t all that different. What I didn’t remember, or didn’t appreciate, is that Erin’s kind of whiny. I suppose that’s the way we are as adolescents when nothing is quite what we hope it will be. But as an adult, it kind of chafes. The Egypt section was very didactic and not very narrative.

During this ten-day, I also read "The Fermi Paradox Is Our Business Model" by Charlie Jane Anders. Good in a pretty traditional science fiction kind of way.

Book #20 – Dirk Gently

Book #20 – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

I have lost my sense of humor to some extent. A decade ago, I liked this book when I read it. But now, arbitrary flights of fancy are hard for me to take, even when they are meant to be humorous. Does this work as a skewed detective story that involves ghosts, aliens, and time machines? Yes, well, I suppose it does although I find it all less satisfying when the bounds  of reality are so blithly disregarded. The wind-up for this story is long. For a book named after a character, we don’t really meet him until page 100. Some of tangent/threads  were pretty tedious. I don’t think I’ll reread The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and I rather worry that I will no longer like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy either.

As for similarities to Mr. Luck? Not too much. Our system is based on manipulating the unobserved/unobservable. It’s a "quantum" principle, but we’re using it in a perhaps more obtuse manner than Dirk’s understanding of the inter-connectivity of everything (I imagine that if Adams wrote this novel now instead of 20 years ago, entanglement would come up more).

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Watched the first season of Slings and Arrows. Good stuff, if you like theater comedy and Shakespeare. Also, Paul Gross seems to have one of those faces I do not recognize from role to role.